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Trading The Spy Beat For Spy Fiction

By Mary Louise Kelly | NPR
Friday, June 21, 2013

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

As an NPR reporter, Mary Louise Kelly covered the CIA and the intelligence beat, traveling around the world and interviewing some of the world's foremost spies. Now, she's used that experience in a new career as a spy novelist. Her thriller, Anonymous Sources, has just been published.



Now to a journalist turned novelist. The novel "Anonymous Sources" comes out this week, and its author is someone whose name you might recognize: Mary Louise Kelly. For years, she was NPR's intelligence correspondent. She covered the CIA, wars, terrorism. Then, Mary Louise decided to trade the spy beat in for spy fiction, and she discovered they are not very different.

MARY LOUISE KELLY: You do see strange things as a reporter. I had one source who used to turn up for meetings actually wearing a trench coat. Another source liked to meet at the dry cleaners inside the Pentagon and another one would talk only on Fridays and then only in the back room of a particular Irish pub on Capitol Hill. There was the time, traveling overseas, when I had a beautiful vase of flowers delivered to my hotel room only to discover it was bugged.

I never knew by whom. Somewhere along the way, it dawned on me. Buried in all these scribbles in my reporter's notebooks, I had the beginnings of an espionage thriller. Take this moment from a reporting trip to Islamabad.



KELLY: That's Robert Siegel interviewing me back in 2009. I was filing from one of Saddam Hussein's abandoned palaces, trying to sound authoritative while squatting under a blanket to muffle the echo.


KELLY: So Robert and I kept talking, ticking through the day's news in Iraq. But may I confess now that I was distracted? That morning in Baghdad, I'd gotten a phone call from my children's school back in Washington. My 4-year-old was sick, as in really sick, barely breathing, and there I was in a war zone 6,000 miles away. I decided it was time to make a career change.

On the long flight home, I started sketching out a novel. For my protagonist, I cast a female reporter chasing a national security story. Write what you know, right? That was the thinking behind the title, too, "Anonymous Sources," because, boy, you cover the intelligence beat, you wrestle with anonymous sources.


SIEGEL: That's NPR's former intelligence correspondent, Mary Louise Kelly. Her new spy novel is titled "Anonymous Sources," and now you know why. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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